1 Thessalonians 5:18
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
These words form the last of a series of apparently impossible precepts — perpetual joy, perpetual prayer, united in a life of perpetual thanksgiving. Of course these do not refer to acts, but to a state of heart. Yet even then the difficulty is not removed, for toll and rest, success and failure, events that cheer or overshadow, are all to be received not only submissively but thankfully, and so are the tremendous sorrows which shatter the human heart. How can this precept be obeyed?
I. ITS DIFFICULTY. Why do we not trust God sufficiently to thank Him in every lot in life?
1. One source of the difficulty lies in the constant changes in the soul's life produced by temperament and circumstances. There are periods when it is comparatively easy to be thankful — days of sunshine when bare existence is a joy — times of sorrow, too, when we can trace the hand of love — hours of meditation when we get some deeper vision into the Divine meaning of life. But there are other periods when thanksgiving is the hardest task — days of dreariness, coldness of spirit, doubt.
2. But apart from this there are two sources of difficulty which are permanent.
(1) Our fancied knowledge of life. We think we can tell what are great mercies, Whereas that which we pass by as a trifle or shudder as at a calamity maybe heaven's greatest blessing in disguise. Constantly we are taught our ignorance, yet constantly we assume to know. Experience has revealed to us that what the child would have chosen the man passes by; and as we pass on in life we learn that the brightest rainbows of hope spring from the darkest clouds of trouble; and that in the deepest valleys of humiliation grow the fairest flowers of faith and love. Yet we forget the lesson, and fancy that we understand all.
(2) Unbelieving distrust of God.
(a) We are afraid to recognize His presence everywhere, acting through every little force in nature and through every trifling change in our careers.
(b) When we do discern the hand of God we are afraid to trust Him perfectly. In our submission we are tempted to bow to a kind of awful will that must have its way, rather than to believe that what God has chosen for us is most wise, just, and kind.
II. THE MOTIVE. God's will is so revealed in Christ that, believing in it, we can give thanks in all things. Christ showed —
1. That life was the perpetual providence of the Father. "Not a sparrow falleth." "Behold the lilies." His life was a ceaseless illustration of this. He went through the world whether men took up stones to stone him or shouted their hallelujahs, equally fearless as though He was sublimely safe, till His work was done. Realize that as true of your life, and if every moment and trifle of our history are under the Father's providence, for what shall we refuse to be thankful!
2. That that providence is a discipline of human character. Christ's teaching and life show us that not getting more, but being greater; not pleasure, but holiness; not success, but heaven is God's purpose in disciplining the life of men. The learning "obedience by the things which He suffered" was the end for which the Father's providence led the Divine man. And so with us.
3. That the discipline of life is explained by eternity alone. The life of Jesus, apart from the eternal glory which crowned it, seems only a failure and a mystery; and the Father, who ordained for Christ His strange dark way, is leading us by a way that must be dark till death lift the veil. We know not what we need for heaven's splendour, but know this that "the great multitude" have come out of great tribulation.
III. THE METHOD OF ITS ATTAINMENT.
1. It is not to be reached by a single resolution, or in a day by an outburst of excited feeling. We may say sincerely, henceforth I resolve to trust God in everything. But little vexations soon shake our trust; greater troubles break down our resolution; the emotion has declined, and we say, "No man can be always thankful."
2. It is the gradual result of a life of earnest fellowship with God — a life that in daily meditation realizes the presence of the Father; that by prayer feels the reality of God's love — that comes at length to walk through all toils and temptations under a deep sense of the all-surrounding God.
(E. L. Hull, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.